In the Boston Globe:
…Silva, who is now at Harvard University on a postdoctoral fellowship, set out to talk with some of these young people about how they were managing the transition to adulthood in the post-industrial economy. In 100 in-depth, in-person interviews, she found a new working-class adult “bewildered in the labor market, betrayed by institutions, distrustful of love, disconnected from others, and committed to emotional growth.”
Those conversations are at the heart of “Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty,” a brief yet devastating book that blends academic analysis and oral history to put a new face on well-documented trends that are more usually described in the abstract. The 21st-century labor market prizes flexibility, education, and technological skills—a landscape that benefits white-collar workers and leaves others struggling to adapt. Well-paying union jobs are being replaced by retail and food-service work, and a financial instability that hurts communities and personal relationships. Silva found people adapting to this landscape of dimmed hopes in surprising ways.
Instead of expressing frustration about their struggles, Silva found, they were adopting an entirely new definition of adulthood in which success was measured not by marriage and homeownership, but by defining and conquering emotional problems, mental illness, family chaos, and addiction. To her surprise, hard-won emotional self-management was often viewed with as much pride as diplomas or marriage certificates. (more…)